Tips on how to write a good essay :

The personal essay is often a free-wheeling device of self-expression. If you ever want to experiment with prose and with loosened structure, this is where you can do it. (If you're writing for a grade, though, make sure you understand what your instructor is looking for before you get too crazy!)


This handout provides steps and exercises to eliminate wordiness at the sentence level.

Introduction → Tell them what you're going to tell them.

use a freewriting exercise at the beginning of each class. It's a way of getting the brain in gear, and it's an exercise you can do on your own, safe to try in your own home. (We provide an interactive page for this exercise, see .) Write down a topic at the top of that empty page. It can be either a one-word topic — like "Dentists," for example — or a brief statement of the topic you've chosen or been given to write about. Set the clock for five to ten minutes and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and go at it. Write as fast as you can; the faster the better. You are not allowed to stop writing! If you can't think of anything to say, write down that you can't think of anything to say, something like: "I'm stuck but I'll think of something soon." Don't stop. Don't worry about transitions or connecting the ideas or paragraphing or subject-verb agreement or even commas. And form absolutely no judgment about what you write. Your Censor is on vacation. Your writing may take you in some really weird directions, but don't stop and never think to yourself, "Oh, this is dumb!" If you get off the subject, that's all right. Your divagation may end up somewhere wonderful. Just keep writing. Do not criticize yourself and do not cut or scratch out or revise in any way. Many instructors suggest that at the end of the timed period, you should write one sentence IN ALL CAPS that takes you back to where you started — something to do with dentists.

Conclusion → Tell them what you told them.

When using quoted speech, don't let a voice talk for very long in your essay; it will take over and start to sound weird. Only the greatest writers can handle speech effectively over a long period of time. Keep the speech elements brief — which is how speech is in real life, after all. We're not allowed to say much before we're interrupted by others or by something else going on. Also, don't try to duplicate the speech of real life, the way people really talk. Tape record a dinner conversation some evening, when people don't know you're doing it, and you'll probably hear something quite unpleasant, something that should never be written down. Use conventional spelling, and don't leave out letters or try to recreate in spelling what you hear people say (He dozn't do nuthin'!); your readers will become more aware of your clever spelling than they are of what's going on in your essay.

Contributors: Jack Baker, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth AngeliLast Edited: 2018-02-09 12:42:48
Before delving into its various genres, let’s begin with a basic definition of the essay.

Good range of vocabulary and grammar

Take 5 minutes to plan out the composition on scrap paper. Jot down a quick paragraph plan and make brief notes about points to include in each part of the composition (Introduction, Main Body, Conclusion). It is good to jot down any impressive vocabulary or phrases what you might like to fit in. all this may seem like a waste of time, but it could be a life-saver if your mind goes blank while you're writing.

This handout includes a brief introduction to the following genres of essay writing:

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These OWL resources will help you with the types of writing you may encounter while in college. The OWL resources range from rhetorical approaches for writing, to document organization, to sentence level work, such as clarity. For specific examples of writing assignments, please see our Common Writing Assignments area.